BJP Kisan Morcha chief takes a swipe at RBI guv on loan waiver

Virendra Singh
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Kisan Morcha chief on Friday demanded that the Maharashtra government write off loans to provide “immediate” relief to farmers.

The Uttar Pradesh government had announced a farm loan waiver on Tuesday. Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel on Thursday criticised farm loan waivers. 

On the comments by the RBI governor, Kisan Morcha chief Virendra Singh said the banking sector was driven by the bottom line and neglected the human aspect. “The RBI governor’s statement reflects that, but the government needs to be sensitive to the needs of the people,” Singh, a third-term parliamentarian and a Lok Sabha member from Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh, said.

“The governments of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu should take a decision like the UP government to provide an immediate solution to distress among farmers and to put a stop to farmers ending their lives.” Maharashtra has a BJP-led government. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had recently told the Maharashtra Assembly the state didn’t have the funds to write off farm debts, and had sought help from the Centre. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, has ruled out any central assistance for such loan waivers.

Singh said farm loan waivers might not solve long-term problems in the agrarian sector but was a necessary temporary solution. The record of recovery of bank loans from farmers, and from villages in general, was far better than that from big businesses he said.

BJP chief Amit Shah had appointed Singh the head of the party’s Kisan Morcha, or farmers’ cell, in December. Since then, Singh has emerged as the party’s voice on agrarian issues, even defending demonetisation as farmer friendly. While none in the council of ministers could have been seen criticising the RBI governor, Singh has no such limitation. As for the next few pro-farmer steps by the Yogi Adityanath-led UP government, Singh said interest-free loans would be provided to farmers in the state. Small farmers would get up to 90 per cent subsidy to purchase milch cattle and use of solar-powered irrigation pumps would be encouraged to help single-crop land become double crop.

Singh’s public statements critical of the RBI governor are significant in the context of the Narendra Modi government and the BJP making a conscious attempt to keep a pro-poor image. The government and the party have assiduously countered any perceptions to the contrary since the Modi government was termed “suit boot ki sarkar”, a government of and for moneybags, in early 2015.

Singh said under the PM’s Gram Sadak Yojana, more roads between fields and villages would be constructed, and dedicated power supply would be provided for irrigation under the Deen Dayal Gram Jyoti Yojana.

On Thursday, RBI Governor Patel had said loan waivers undermined honest credit culture and impacted credit discipline. “In other words, waivers engender a moral hazard,” Patel said, after announcing the first bi-monthly monetary policy for 2017-18. On Tuesday, the UP government had announced Rs 36,000-crore loan waiver for small and marginal farmers.

Singh said he has written to senior ministers in the government seeking the constitution of an inter-ministerial group to look at the agrarian sector for greater unity of purpose in decision making for the sector.

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